First thoughts on redistricting.

I’m getting home too late to provide much in the way of useful commentary, but I really want to point to the redistricting plans that became public this evening. Just one week before they’re due to be voted on, we’re all getting our first look at them. (To be fair, I thought odds were good that they wouldn’t be public at all prior to the vote, so it could be worse.) So far only senate and house districts are available—no official, detailed congressional lines are public yet—and there’s been no time for proper analysis. In a nutshell, Senate Democrats drew the lines that benefit them, and House Republicans drew the lines that benefit them. If any of those benefit us, that’s just a happy coincidence.

VPAP has crunched some numbers, although I recommend skipping the confusing default charts and using the scatterplots, which are a better way to visualize the proposed changes.

Where I live, things would stay the same. I’d remain in the 58th house district, represented by Republican Rob Bell, and I’d remain in the 25th senate district, represented by Democrat Creigh Deeds. The 58th ends up distending to the west rather a long way—clear over the mountains to to Elkton, within spitting distance of Massanutten—linking two utterly unrelated communities. And although I’m very happy having Creigh as my senator, I think the fact that I’m going to remain in his district highlights one of the many problems with redistrict as it’s practiced. The 25th is ridiculous, and the proposed 25th looks even more ridiculous. There’s just no way that it makes sense for a senator who lives in Bath County to represent Albemarle County. But much of his existing constituency is here, and his fellow Democrats in the senate aren’t about to change that.

My assumption is that the final district boundaries are going to look very much like—if not precisely like—what we see here. I’d love to hear from folks about how their own district is going to be affected. What about your new boundaries don’t make any sense? Is there anything that’s improved?

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

23 replies on “First thoughts on redistricting.”

  1. I lose Ruff for Watkins, and trade in Abbitt for whoever is in the 61st.

    I didn’t like either of the previous people, so a change will be interesting. I didn’t say good.

    And DLS/LIS should seriously look at what went wrong today with their website. It sucked.

  2. Gah! Silverlight!? Really? Great… now our government is requiring proprietary spyware to view what should be public records.

    As for the district plans… they protect incumbents, and allow them to chose their voters; and a little more democracy is eroded every time.

  3. I just noticed that these district lines don’t follow precinct lines. For instance, in Albemarle, the Stony Point precinct is divided in two by the Senate plan. That’s bizarre, a terrible idea, and one that I can’t support.

  4. Waldo, just wanted to bring a website issue to your attention. At the bottom of your blog is a picture with a link for more info. When I click on “more”, it takes me to a bunch of Viagra ads. Now, maybe it’s not a mistake, but if it is I thought you’d want to know. :)

  5. “I just noticed that these district lines don’t follow precinct lines. For instance, in Albemarle, the Stony Point precinct is divided in two by the Senate plan. That’s bizarre, a terrible idea, and one that I can’t support.”

    They never do perfectly. And there’s not necessarily much of a reason to do so — precinct boundaries get redrawn by local registrars in one municipality or another every single year.

  6. I agree with Sam regarding the precinct boundaries. Most localities are having to redraw their local voting districts right now, as well, and there are bound to be some split precincts in any county that is not wholly contained in one senate or house district. Pretty sure the state legislature will revisit these areas that changed locally next year and make some small changes to whatever redistricting plans they adopt in the next week or so.

  7. Thank you, Sarah! I had an infected file, though I had no idea about it. (The infected version is only supposed to be shown to Google’s bots—how lucky for me that you wound up seeing it.) I’ve got that fixed now.

  8. Mark, it happens with some degree of regularity in counties or cities with higher populations, higher population densities and especially larger population shifts as local registrars try to balance between having the fewest possible number of precincts to administer while also not ending up with any precincts with such a large population that they accidentally end up with voters still standing in line at 7 PM when polls are supposed to close and results are supposed to be tabulated and reported to the SBE.

    Considering four of Cumberland five precincts can already share polling locations (101 and 301 both poll at the Rescue Squad station, and 401 and 501 both poll at the Southern Cumberland Community Center), I’m not surprised they’ve never had to switch their precinct boundaries. It would be hard to run their elections any more efficiently than they are already.

  9. On precinct lines: Yep. Williamsburg just redrew its lines this summer.
    There are always a few split precincts. They try to keep them to a minimum because they require additional expense — two different ballots at the same precinct.

  10. Sam,

    Precincts 1-3 are in separate locations. One is on N Rt 45, known as Cartersville Rd., 2 is located at the fire station on Rt. 13 just south of Anderson Hwy (Rt 60), and 3 is at the other rescue squad to the west on Rt 60, almost to S Rt 45, known as Cumberland Rd.

    Several years ago, a joint precinct voting location was instituted for 4 and 5.

    Also, estimated 6,000 registered voters, so it’s not like being in a city or even Farmville.

  11. Ah, sorry about that. Bad information, I saw the same address for both “rescue squad” polling locations.

    You get my point, though — districts and district boundaries are a legislative concept used to determine constituencies of roughly equal populations by common geography, whereas precincts and precinct boundaries are a local administrative construct which are only intended to be used for conducting elections efficiently. It benefits local election officials to draw precinct boundaries so that they’re situated entirely within a single set of legislative districts for the US House, State House and State Senate because that’s easier to administer. It is likewise preferable for the legislature to follow precinct boundaries when redistricting because that’s the smallest geographical subdivision by which election results are reported, so a legislator knows generally how a proposed constituency might vote to a more-accurate degree than he might otherwise.

    But while using common boundaries is often convenient, since both types of boundaries have entirely different purposes, it’s neither necessary nor possible to overlap them 100% of the time.

  12. Tom,

    I am not sure to what you are referring. I have no plans to run for anything, maybe except to be a citizen who pays attention.

    What is this in reference to?

  13. Well you are always giving alot of lip service about how bad the Board of Supervisors in Cumberland are I thought maybe you were going to do more than just idle talk.

  14. Tom,

    Since your comments are anonymous, I would have no idea what, if anything, you know about me or Cumberland County. Until that changes, I will defer to your attempts to cryptically draw me into this conversation, a game I will not be playing.

    I will say this though; the BOS in Cumberland County is so rife with corruption and misdeeds that they should all be replaced.

    Who are you, by the way?

    This article deals with redistricting in the entire Commonwealth, so you are officially off topic.

  15. Mark I happen to know alot about Cumberland.I sure am sad the Cumberland trading post in closing but atleast the Cumberland Restaurant is still open.Cumberland Building supply has great prices.Sheriff Darrell Hodges is doing a great job.Diamond Truss has excellent prices.Mark Brooks hates the Cumberland Board of Supervisors and ALL Republicans but loves ALL Democrats.I wasn’t trying to give you a hard time.Just wondering if you were going to do anything other than talk.I disagree with you on your politics but happen to agree with you on the Board of Supervisors.Mark you should lighten up a little people can disagree that doesn’t mean they have to hate each other.

  16. Your characterizations of me are wildly false. I don’t hate, I have no animus towards anyone who is willing to discuss things rationally.

    In one sentence, you claim I hate all Republicans and love all Democrats. Next sentence: Not trying to give me a hard time. I have plenty of problems with some who call themselves Democrats.

    People who don’t identify themselves and play this game I put in the category of pesky trolls.

    Your passive-aggressive behavior is one more reason why we will not be having a substantial conversation here.

  17. No you are the reason we can’t have a substantial conversation here or in Cumberland.You TALK about how bad things are in Cumberland but won’t do anything to change things.As far as you hating Republicans I have never seen you write anything but mean spirited post about them but you never mention any of the bad shit Democrats do.So I guess you must like giving alot of lip service with no action.Hey maybe that’s why Perriello is unemployed now.

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